The Simple, Difficult Act of Leaning Forward

Parkinson’s disease officially joined our family about 3 years ago. It began taking hold of my dad years before the diagnosis, but since that day when he sadly and resignedly admitted, “I have it,” it’s taken our entire family on a different journey. It’s devastating to watch a disease work to overtake his brain, drain him of dopamine, and at times shake the strength out of his grip.

But as time has gone on, I find myself growing more inspired by being around the man who lives with the disease. He’s come to accept it as a real part of his life, but he has refused to let it define or destroy him.

He began attending a boxing class created specifically for Parkinson’s patients several months ago, and every once in a while, I get the opportunity to go with him and be his corner person. Every single time I’ve gone, I’ve found myself encouraged and challenged. People who commit to this class have pledged to not let Parkinson’s rule their lives, and one can’t help but make the connection to other life struggles when such an obvious chronic disease as Parkinson’s is being beat up by shaking, gloved hands.

My personal challenge concerning my year-long resolve to lean was perfectly illustrated last week when I was throwing a few hundred punches on the heavy bags with my dad at the gym.

You see, July was about leaning forward.

The direction we all find ourselves looking each day, no matter what kind of day we had yesterday. The direction that oftentimes invokes fear, anxiety, and insecurity. Ultimately, it’s also the direction we strive to go.

There’s a real and important distinction to make between looking and leaning forward.

Anyone can look forward. I can look forward all day while I’m leaning back, but I’m never going to move without making the effort to lean forward, take those awkward and uncomfortable stretches, and lean into whatever challenge I’m about to face.

Dad did a 1,200 punch workout the other day; his biggest accomplishment in the class so far, and it was somewhere around the 1,000 punch mark, as he and I found our target pieces of colored tape on the heavy bag to wallop that he looked at me for a second, determined grin in place, and said, “See that red piece of tape right there? That’s Mr. Parkinson’s nose!”

He then proceeded to cream his competitor – the demanding, constant, uninvited companion that walks through life with him – with an impressive blow. We did a gloved fist bump and knocked out the rest of the workout.

It was a powerful moment to watch him look at what he needed to do, focus, then lean forward and take it on.

As I worked through my own personal challenges throughout the month of July, I was amazed at the power and simplicity that comes with leaning forward. It’s not easy to do all while being simple. No matter how much it hurts, how far I’ve fallen back, or what obstacle is in front of me, it always boils down to me simply choosing to stop making excuses and lean forward, especially when it’s just easier to stand still.

I’ve made progress each time that I’ve done so just as I’ve watched my favorite boxer grow stronger with each time he leans forward to throw a punch. It’s only fitting to take the challenge of leaning forward with me into the new school year. How do you find yourself leaning forward in your current season?

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